After enduring a tough final major of the year, it’s time to get back to the regular events with the Travelers Championship. Here’s to some green screens this week!
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Held at TPC River Highlands, a Pete Dye designed par 70, winning scores have ranged between -12 and -20 over the past five years. Winners have varied between bombers (Bubba Watson), short hitters (Ken Duke) and all-rounders (Marc Leishman) over this period. Despite the variety, the stat that looks particularly important is greens in regulation – or strokes gained approach the green. Last year, the top two in GIR finished 2nd and 3rd. In 2014 the top three all finished in the top 10 in GIR. In 2013, two of the top three were top 10 in GIR including Graham Delaet (1st in GIR) who finished one off the pace. With only 2 par 5s, it is the shortish par 4s (400-450 yards) where a lot of the scoring will be done.
There have been some changes to the course over the last year which including the reshaping of greens and narrowing of targets off the tee which could limit the importance of course history; however, if a player feels comfortable here, or on other Pete Dye courses, I expect them to continue to enjoy the revamped course.
Another week of incredibly soft pricing there’s a number of ways that this can be played. I, however, will be taking a stars a scrubs approach with a number of good plays identified in the $6k range.
Branden Grace ($11,500) –
Another major in America, another top 5 finish. Grace noted that his ball striking was as good as it had ever been, which was backed up by the stats. He finished 1st in proximity and 2nd in SG approach the green. His putting was disappointing, but if he keeps giving himself chances he’ll compete again this week. He won earlier in the year at RBC Heritage which is another short Pete Dye track. While he missed the cut last year, he opened up with a 67 to show he can play the course, and hopefully this should slightly lower his ownership.
Matt Kuchar ($10.600) –
Back to a regular tour event and I’m straight back on Kuchar. His major record this season has been poor, backed up with a MC last week. His regular tour results, however, have been outrageous reading T9-T3-T4-T6-3-T3. Hopefully last week’s MC will keep his ownership down. He also has the game to suit with a fantastic record at Pete Dye courses. This season he has finished in the top 10 in all Pete Dye course visits. Ranking top 40 in both GIR and SG approach the green, he should be comfortable on the course. He may not win often but will be a core part of any cash and GPP team.
Webb Simpson ($10,000) –
Webb has been striking the ball beautifully, and now has four top 15s in his last six events. He’s 11th in SG approach the green this season, and finally his putting is starting to come around. He’s visited TPC River Highlands six times with six made cuts including a top five last time in 2013. I fully expect Webb to challenge again at a course that suits.
Jon Rahm ($9.800) –
I don’t know what to expect from Rahm, but it’s clear that he’s an incredible talent. Having only played nine PGA tour events he has four top 10s. Incredible. A great ball striker, he’ll give himself plenty of birdie chances this week. He has actually played the tournament once before and made the cut with three rounds under par. Likely to be highly owned, but I think time will tell that he should actually be a far higher price.
To Note: Brooks Koepka ($11,200) –
Last week I called him horribly wrong. While his ankle was apparently still giving him problems, he played fantastically through the pain. He can challenge on any course, and is playing to secure a Ryder Cup place so may be right up there this week again. I will, however, most likely avoid while he still claims to be playing with ankle issues
Brendan Steele ($8,500) –
For someone who has missed his last two cuts, Steele looks quite pricey. These two were, however, both at majors so I feel like these can be discounted somewhat. Before that he had made seven consecutive cuts including five top 20s. His ball striking has been great this season sitting 35th in SG T2G and 18th in GIR. His course form is also fantastic with five visits giving four top 25s including a round of 62. He should be a lot more comfortable coming back here rather than at a major track.
Martin Laird ($8,000) –
Until about a month ago, Laird was having a poor year and down to 234th in the world. In the his last four, however, he has gone T21-T7-T64-T2. A fantastic improvement. Coming back to a course that he likes (seven rounds in the 60s in last two visits) he could continue his hot form. Expected to be low owned at this price.
Ryan Moore ($7,800) –
Moore hasn’t done much in the last few weeks, but he still has four made cuts in a row. These have been in high class fields (three majors and The Memorial) so may actually count for a bit more than meets the eye. The thing that makes this more interesting is Moore’s outstanding course form. Nine visits have resulted in five top seven finishes. This price looks too good to be true. A cash and GPP play.
Brian Harman ($7,700) –
One of my favourite plays of the week. Harman signed off last time out with a 63 to finish T23 in Canada. This followed a run of four decent efforts including a top 10 at the Barbasol. As one of the best putters on tour, when his ball striking shows up he can hit low scores. Finishing 2nd in GIR last year when finishing 3rd, the course clearly fits his eye. As well as last year’s 3rd, he has three other solid finishes including a top 25 in 2012. A great mid-range play.
Soren Kjeldsen ($7,700) –
For some reason Kjeldsen is continually undervalued. 43rd in the world, Kjeldsen could be going for a Ryder Cup place. With two top 10 finishes in the majors this year (as well as a made cut last week), he’s clearly a classy operator. A short course, this should suit his skills set.
Tyrell Hatton ($7,700) –
Hatton is on a hot streak and is up to 52nd in the world. Three consecutive top 10s include a T5 at The Open and a T10 at the PGA. This is just part of a longer run of form with nine top 20s in his last 12. Very impressive. At this price, it’s only sensible to continue to ride this hot streak until it ends.
Daniel Summerhays ($7,600) –
Another player with two top 10s at the majors this season, finishing 3rd at the PGA last week. Having burned a lot of people in Canada with a MC, he may be lower owned than expected. He has a great record on par 4s (33rd in birdie or better), and is the best putter in the field. While his course form is poor, he is playing on a higher level than ever before so I’m happy to discount it.
Boo Weekley ($7,300) –
Boo is a great ball striker and sits 8th SG off the tee this year. His approach play hasn’t been up to scratch but in his last two tournaments he has been in top 25 in SG approach the green. This has led to two top 12 finishes. This is the type of course that suits having previously won at the RBC Heritage and Colonial, two correlation courses. He has a top 15 here from 2009 but hasn’t played here for a number of years which will likely keep him low owned.
Aaron Baddeley ($6,900) –
Having been at a similar price last week, Badds is a bargain. He made the cut keeping a run of form going that now reads T12-T17-1-T49. In all four he has finished top 20 for GIR. As one of the best putters on tour, this ball striking performance makes him very dangerous. Coming back to a course where he has challenged before – finishing 4th in 2014 – I expect him to figure.
Hudson Swafford ($6,900) –
Having gone through a mid-season slump, Swafford has hit some decent form with eight consecutive made cuts. This culminated in a top 15 last time out in Canada. Ranking 20th in GIR this season, he should be able to perform well. While he missed the cut here last year, he finished top 25 the year before including two rounds of 66.
Jon Curran ($6,500) –
Two weeks ago, Curran disappointed with a missed cut in Canada; however, he followed this up with his first ever made cut in a major. Having almost bagged a win at The Memorial, he has shown his game is in good shape. In similar form last year, he ended up finishing 10th with 18 birdies showing he likes the course. In a confident mood I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenging again.
Chris Stroud ($6,300) –
If there’s one person who loves the course, it’s Chris Stroud. In the last eight years he has made eight cuts including a top 10 last year and in 2013. He’s been having a solid but unspectacular year. Having made four of his last five cuts his form seems to be trending in the right direction.
Michael Thompson ($6,200) –
On the face of it, Thompson’s course form isn’t great. Four missed cuts in the last four years make for poor reading. In 2011, he finished 4th including a round of 62. Coming in to this year’s tournament in fantastic form (4th and 14th in last two) he should be full of confidence at a low price.
Chez Reavie ($6,200) –
Earlier in the year, Reavie was the talk of the town after a great run of form. He cooled off missing three consecutive cuts, but now looks to have turned a corner. Finishing 14th in Canada, he was 4th in GIR, hitting 21 birdies. Ranking 10th in SG approach the green this year while short off the tee this is a course that should suit. Has decent previous form here having finished T25 last year and T11 in 2012.
Chad Campbell ($6,200) –
This is again a silly price. Campbell’s game suits this course ranking 28th in SG T2G. This has been shown by his form at the course with a T25 and T7 in the past two years. His recent form is great having made six consecutive cuts, all inside the top 40. At a low price, I’d happily play him in both GPP and cash.
Michael Kim ($5,500) –
I’ll be playing Michael Kim in cash every week until he stops performing. In his last 12 tournaments he’s made 11 cuts. A short hitter, this is a course that could suit his game. I expect him to carry on his run of form.
Steven Bowditch ($5,000) –
This may seem crazy, but he has noted on twitter that he’s found something in his swing. While he’s been having a tough year, he has got a big upside with tour wins in the past two years. He finished 15th here last year showing he’s comfortable at the course. If you want to play some of the higher salaried players in the field, he could be a way to fit them in.
The World Ranking Play:
Jamie Donaldson ($5,900) –
Ranked 28th in the field, Donaldson looks a bargain at under $6k. He has shown some form recently making cuts in both The Open and the PGA Championship. A winner in the last four years, Donaldson has definite upside. With the Ryder Cup coming up, Donaldson – who holed the winning putt last time – may be inspired to make one final push.
Bubba Watson ($12,300) –
Fading the best player in the field made me look stupid last week, but I’m about to do it again. Hopefully lightning won’t strike twice! While Watson has exceptional course form with two wins here, his recent form has been disappointing. Without a top 10 since before the Masters, Bubba would have to outperform his current play in order to meet his value. I’m willing to take him on.